Thursday, March 10, 2011

Will Big East Get 11?

The Big East should be sending 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament next week, and that was probably true before Marquette won any games in the Big East Tournament. Now that Marquette has won two games in the BET, I think it is a guarantee.

It is not only the depth of talent and success in the Big East that makes this so obvious. It is the lack of good teams in other conferences this year that is going to force the NCAA Committee to choose eleven of the Big East brethern.

Historically, there are some solid mid-major teams that deserve to be in the NCAA tournament because they beat up on some of the top 25 teams during the season. That isn’t the case this year.

The following 15 conferences have no wins against Top 25 teams: America East, Big Sky, Big South, Ivy League, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American (0-14), Mid-Eastern Athletic (0-11), Missouri Valley (0-10), Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot League, Southern (0-10), Southland (0-11), Southwestern Atlantic (0-11), and Sun Belt. Normally you have solid arguments from the Mid-American, Missouri Valley and Mid-Eastern Athletic conferences for inclusion of multiple teams; those conferences are a combined 0-35 versus the top 25 this year.

The following 6 conferences have one win each against a Top 25 team: Atlantic Sun, UC Santa Barbara, Colonial Athletic, Horizon, Summit League (1-17), West Coast, and Western Athletic.

Oakland (of the Summit League) is one of the few teams in the mid-majors who could make an argument for going to the tournament on their resume alone (25-9, 15-7 away from home, 1-4 versus top 25) and they won their own tournament, so they are moot point.

The Atlantic 10 has four wins against Top 25 teams.

The Pac 10 has only one ranked team: Arizona, and they are 0-3 versus the top 25. UCLA could make an argument at 22-9, 2-2 versus top 25, 6-7 away from home. USC is 3-1, but currently has an 18-13 record, so that’s not a great record considering their overall competition.

The top four teams in Conference USA are 0-4 against the Top 25. The middle of Conference USA makes a stronger argument with Southern Miss, Marshall and UCF going a combined 3-1.

The ACC has only 2 ranked teams (Duke and North Carolina) in the top 25. Duke is 4-1 vs the Top 25, but NC is only 2-3. Florida State is 2-4, though at 21-9 with a 8-5 road record FSU should be fine. Clemson, #4 in the ACC is only 1-2 against the Top 25, 3-7 on the road, and 20-10 overall. I don’t see how that betters any Big East team.

The Big Ten has three teams that did well against the Top 25 with Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin. #4 Illinois is 1-6 versus the top 25, Michigan 1-7, Michigan State 3-8 (and MSU lost to both UConn and SU

Mountain West goes two teams with San Diego State and Brigham Young. #3 UNLV is only 1-5 against the top 25, though they are an impressive 12-3 away from home. The rest of Mountain West is 2-25 versus the top 25.

The SEC has two ranked teams (Florida and Kentucky). Vanderbilt makes a good argument, but Georgia is only 20-10 with a 1-5 top 25 record. Alabama is only 20-10 with a 1-3 top 25 record. Those aren’t bad, but they aren’t screaming ‘take me’. Tennessee is a respectable 4-4, and had a lot of off-the-court issues this year, but their overall record is now 18-13.

The Big 12 run deep with a lot of wins against Top 25 teams, and six teams currently with 20+ wins. A lot of their bubble teams are horrendous on the road: Colorado 3-9, Nebraska 1-7, Baylor 2-6, Oklahoma State 2-9.

Contrast this with the Big East’s top 11 teams. They all have 20+ wins. The worst road record of the group is 4-7 which isn’t that bad; seven have winning road records. They are 28-10 on neutral courts. 9 teams in the top 25. Marquette was the closest thing to a bubble team, and they are now 20-13 overall, 4-9 on the road. Compare that to the other conferences 3-5 seeds, and you should be impressed. Marquette’s RPI is only 64, so that would be their biggest concern, but you don’t win two games in the Big East tournament, on top of a solid resume, and go home.

Villanova may have put themselves at risk; if any Big East team doesn’t make it, it would be the Wildcats who have lost 5 straight including an embarrassing loss to South Florida. But they are 21-11 overall, 5-8 versus top 25 teams, and their RPI is still #37 in the country. They have big wins over Temple, Louisville, Syracuse and West Virginia. And their overall body of work, compared to the weak efforts from other conferences, still points them in.

Syracuse, of course, is a tourney lock, and have been for a while. They have no bad losses (Seton Hall is the worst loss and they are 97 in the RPI). They have 12 total quality wins, and five of those are signature wins against Notre Dame, St. Johns, UConn, West Virginia and Georgetown. They are 6-4 versus the top 25, 9-3 away from home, 12-6 in the conference and 25-6 overall. The question is what seed they will get, and it appears around a #3.

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